Why a mobile digital workplace empowers retail employees

Why a Mobile Digital Workplace Empowers Retail Employees

May 5, 2021 5:45:43 PM

Employee experience

Picture Brendan. He’s 22 and is an employee in a clothing store. He often feels like a fish out of water on the shop floor and spends his shift waiting for his supervisor to tell him which displays to arrange and which till to serve. He feels panicked when customers come to him for help because usually he doesn’t know the answer to their questions. He often feels like if he didn’t bother turning up for work, nobody would notice the difference. Brendan is not an empowered employee.

It’s not Brendan’s fault that he feels so disempowered in his job, he just hasn’t been given the right tools to fulfil his potential. Empowered employees have autonomy. They can be trusted to make the right decisions and provide a customer experience that delivers brand values. Empowered employees feel that their contributions are valued by their company and feel comfortable asking for support when they need it. 

But these empowered individuals are not the employees that make up the majority of frontline retail teams in 2021. This post will explore why retail employees don’t feel empowered, what this means for retailers and how to combat this using a mobile digital workplace.

Related: What is a digital workplace and what are its benefits? 


Why retail teams don’t feel empowered

They feel disconnected

A survey of 1000 frontline employees found that 35% feel disconnected from their company. When employees don’t feel connected to HQ or other team members, they aren’t kept informed about new information or problems that arise, so are more likely to feel overwhelmed by their workload. 

Lack of connection also leads to feelings of isolation. Even in jobs with tough workloads, people are happy when they really like their coworkers. This is something lacking in retail, because employees don't get to meet a lot of their coworkers who work at different locations or on different shift patterns. 

Related: [Infographic] What Do Frontline Retail Employees Want in 2021?


They’re perceived to have dead-end jobs

Retail jobs have a high turnover as many team members are seasonal or young and still working out their career path. However, the perception of retail as a dead-end job makes it less likely that employees will want to commit to doing the best they can in their current roles. 

Lack of opportunity for training and progression does nothing to counter this as 40% of frontline employees are trained once a year or less, and 34% millennial frontline employees report a lack of career growth. Even if employees are only using their job as a stepping stone, they should still have the opportunity to progress and grow their skills. A lack of investment in training doesn’t give retail employees the tools and knowledge the need for a successful career.


They feel burnt out

Covid has created a high stress environment and burnout is at an all time high. Frontline workers have had to take on a whole host of new tasks to enforce social distancing in addition to their usual responsibilities. Repetitive admin tasks like opening and closing checklists and counting stock take up huge chunks of their time, and 71% know that digitizing these tasks would make them more productive as they’d have more time for more rewarding tasks like helping customers. 

In addition to this, employees have no idea how well they’re performing. Only 28% of millennial frontline employees find it easy to understand whether their work meets company expectations. 


How does a mobile digital workplace help?

A mobile digital workplace gives frontline employees all the information and resources they need to work, learn and communicate on a mobile device. Only 59% of frontline employees use mobile devices on the job, despite their potential for boosting empowerment and autonomy in the workplace. Here’s why a mobile digital workplace is key for empowering teams:


It connects 

Retail employees don’t get to meet many of their peers as they work in different locations, different shift patterns, or different parts of the store. It’s also rare that they will come into contact with company executives, so the people at the top can seem like distant authority figures rather than people. A mobile digital workplace allows frontline employees to be kept in the loop with company updates and news anytime, anywhere. In fact, 76% of employees know they would feel more connected if they could access company communications on a mobile device. 


It makes training accessible

Formal classroom training and take-home materials don’t easily fit into the work schedules of retail employees, so it’s often neglected. 70% of employees think app-based training would be easier, and a digital workplace can provide this. A mobile digital workplace allows employees to learn while in the flow of work by accessing training content while on the job via a mobile device. This could be in the form of a 3 minute training video, an infographic or a short set of illustrated instructions for how to follow a process. Accessible learning allows employees to build their skills on a daily basis by having the right knowledge at their fingertips at all times.


It improves productivity

Employees don’t feel productive when they have to spend a long time looking for information to complete a task and then need to wait a long time for feedback. A digital workplace improves this by streamlining processes, putting all instructions and information in one place and making prioritizing easy. It also allows employees to submit checklists and photos of completed tasks, enabling HQ to provide instant feedback which ensures consistency across stores and gives employees confidence that their work is up to standard. Having instant access to information, priority tasks and guidance allows employees to save time and work autonomously.


It makes working in retail more fulfilling

Employees who feel connected, valued and productive feel more fulfilled at work. Fulfilled employees work harder and provide a better customer experience, so customers are more likely to come back. Research by Gallup found that engaged teams boost are 21% more productive and boost profitability by 22%. It’s evident that the employee fulfillment provided by a digital mobile workplace translates directly to company reputation and market success. Furthermore, positive employee experiences boost the company’s reputation as an employer and makes the business more likely to attract and retain top talent when hiring.


What can employers do?

There are a number of steps employers can take to improving the empowerment of retail teams:


  1. Complete an audit - find out what platforms employees are currently using on the job for communication, learning and task management. These can include desktop computers, social media, paper forms and websites.

  2. Talk to retail employees - ask how they could be better supported. Which tasks take a long time to complete and could be done faster digitally? What kind of training do they think would be helpful? What sort of communications would make them feel connected e.g newsletters/competitions/store of the month award?

  3. Digitize processes - automate processes where you can. Many of the tasks your employees currently do by hand like checking expiration dates, taking inventory and completing opening and closing paper checklists can be digitized. This will give employees more time to spend on empowering work like helping customers.

  4. Invest in one platform that can do it all - find a streamlined, mobile-first platform that can combine communications, learning and task management in one app. It’s critical that the platform is accessible for every employee, so implement a BYOD policy or provide employees with mobile devices to use at work.

  5. Lead from the front - encourage employees to use the platform by leading by example. In addition to delivering all tasks, training and business communications on the app, make it fun. Post videos and gifs celebrating promotions and birthdays, use games and leaderboards for training, create incentives for employees who complete the most tasks to perfection, and include surveys encouraging employees to give their feedback on their experience working for the company. If employees feel like the platform is fun, useful and beneficial to their employee experience, they will want to use it.


Retailers like Lacoste, Redner’s Markets and Lancome use YOOBIC’s digital workplace to empower their retail teams. Want to see how YOOBIC can empower your store teams?